Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, may stir up some controversy with his new single “N-ggas in Poorest” which takes on the materialism of “N-ggas in Paris”. The single corresponds with the recent birthday of Malcolm X and even features a snippet of the activist speaking in place of the Will Farrell interlude. Yasiin goes on to rap about the economic reality of the average Black person and ends the song with the refrain “Don’t get caught-up in no throne, these devils out here lying, acting like the people ain’t dying, silver and gold ain’t never saved a soul…Allah in Control”, a vastly different message from Kanye & Jay-Z‘s ode to extravagance. This remix and video addresses the financial crisis and tries to turn the ear of the hearer to what is really important — honoring and protecting your people.
Though “N-ggas in Paris” may be an entertaining song one has to question how two of America’s top Black entertainers (one who is grew-up in a very poor community) can make in Kanye’s words: “Haute Couture Rap”. Some may say that by hearing Kanye and Jay-Z rap about the good life we are inspired to obtain it, but after almost 20-years of “bling rap” the Black community has grown poorer not richer. If rap artists really want to “lift as they climb” they will need to do more than showcase their “haute life” but will actually have to turn back and lift up the poor in our community through philanthropy (sorry Jay, $6,000 a year does not a philanthropist make) and activism.
To anyone who would say “well it’s their money, stop hating”, remember that it’s this same sentiment that allows Republicans to create a tax system where millionaires and billionaires pay little or no taxes, while the working poor pay plenty of taxes at every turn; it’s that same sentiment that blocked full healthcare reform and it’s that same sentiment that Bernie Madoff lived by while he ripped off not only rich individuals but religious, non-profit and corporate institutions, many of which were in his OWN Jewish community; sadly they trusted him so they gave him access. Could it be that since we as a Black community trust (and sometimes worship) our entertainers we give them access to ripping us off as well? If poor Black youth are supporting these artists shouldn’t they take some time to address the issues that are affecting our community? Remember that in the past when Black artist like Josephine Baker and Langston Hughes were in Paris it was because they were sharing the reality of the Black experiences via art. Baker even risked her life and was honored by France for spying on the Nazis during WWII, her time spent in Paris wasn’t just a vapid song and dance.
See the lyrics and video below:
“These young bloods is looking scary at the mall
They wearing pants, you can still see they drawers
They rob a nigga in the bathroom stall
They took his life cause he ain’t want to take it off
Poor so hard, that sh-t cray, ain’t it, Bey? Diabetics, fish filet
Poor so hard, your house so cold, ni–a, it ain’t spring
Every winter landlord f-ckin’ with my heat again
Bougie girl, grab your hand, show you how to do this ghetto dance
F-ck your French, we ain’t in France, I’m just saying
Prince Williams ain’t do it right, if you ask me
If I was him, I’d put some black up in my family
Fake Gucci, my ni–a, fake Louis, my killa
Real drugs, my dealer, who the f-ck is Margiela?
Doctors say I’m the illest, I ain’t got no insurance
It’s them ni–as in poorest, be them rebel guerillas, huh”
[Interlude: Malcolm X]
“I don’t worry. I tell you, I am a man who believed that I died 20 years ago
And I live like a man who is dead already. I have no fear whatsoever of anybody or anything.”